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Malawi Launches First Ever Online News Channel

A privately owned organization, African News Media, in July, launched the first ever online news site that will cover news and events on Malawi for local and foreign viewers.

Managing Director Prince Jamali said that the site stems from what many say is an information gap about news from Malawi, especially by people in the diaspora.

He says the on-line news portal, which is relying on advertising, will strive to provide unbiased news on the economy, politics, culture and sports among others. Jamali says it has hired a team of reporters and correspondents across the country's 28 districts.

However critics say the existence of other online news sites like the Nyasa Times is likely to pose a challenge to the survival of the which they say is not fully established. But Jamali says the portal, with its unique content, means it has no competitors.

"It is a channel [site] which is different from the rest of media outlets which are found in the country. We have to emphasize that it is not the newspaper. It's a news channel which takes on board videos, live interviews [audio] documentaries, [which the existing Malawian online news sites don't have]," says Jamali.

But international communications technology (ICT) commentator Emanuel Nalumaka is skeptical about the impact the online news channel can make on Malawians, most of whom do not have access to the internet. Recent studies rank Malawi among countries in Africa with the lowest use of ICT.

"It's a good development that we have added a Malawi online publication," says Nalumaka,"but [according to] the recent survey by the National Statistical Office, the illiteracy level is still high in Malawi. So [using the internet] as one way of communicating to the masses is not the best method.

"Of course in the 21st century people are using the ICT, but here in the country now everyone can access the internet. You know how many internet cafes we have in town in the rural areas looking at my grandparents in the village he cannot access that one [Malawionline]," he says.

But Jamali says although the ICT availability in Malawi might be very low this time around, he is hopeful that in a few years to come, ICT will be part of life for every Malawian.

"I am quite happy to note that during the current sitting of parliament a bill has just been passed to make sure that internet in Malawi should be available even to the rural areas. So we are moving through ICT and [the time is coming when] it will be accessed by all Malawians at various levels of the society in town and rural areas."